Every entrepreneur needs a support squad, and it is especially helpful if that team includes your hometown or your state officials. In the case of watchmakers Vortic, that backing recently came not only verbally but also in the form of monetary support for the growing business.
Last month, the Fort Collins, Colo.–based watch manufacturer that upcycles classic pocket watches and turns them into highly collectible wristwatches received a $250,000 grant from Colorado to help develop new jobs within the state’s advanced-manufacturing sector. It is a win that helps Vortic grow and is a shot in the arm for the work Vortic cofounders R.T. Custer and Tyler Wolfe want to do.
“The biggest thing that grants like this give us is credibility,” Custer says. “We want to become the American watch company. To do that, we can’t just be a watch company. We have to be a manufacturing company that focuses on watches. That’s the differential that Tyler and I talk about all the time.”
On May 19, the Global Business Development division of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade awarded $8.5 million to 38 different startups and existing businesses in Colorado to support the state’s advanced industries, the state said in a statement. The idea behind these grants is to “drive innovation, accelerate commercialization, encourage public-private partnerships, and increase access to early-stage capital,” the state said.
For Custer, the award meant pulling together an extensive application form and presenting his company’s story and plans before a panel of esteemed community members and business leaders. He’s fine with presentations in general, as that’s something he’s done before, having presented Vortic and its ideas to the public through a YouTube channel about the watch manufacturer.
For this grant, “we were pitching against people who are putting robots on Mars. Literally, we pitched alongside someone who is working on curing cancer,” Custer says. “It’s all about research and development and finding new things as well as advancing the progress of the state of Colorado in advanced industries.”
Vortic’s grant will go toward additional equipment so the business can continue to make the kind of watches they want to collectively make, which means high-tech use of 3D printers and much more. Custer says people can watch the YouTube program about Vortic to see the grant in action.
The award also has a larger meaning for Custer, who says this is an achievement that proves Vortic is worthy of the investment and that the state wants the company there for the long-term. He feels the same way, Custer says.
“The state is putting its money where its mouth is,” Custer says. “The thing about our jobs is there is no such thing as remote work. We need people to be physically here.… We want to create American jobs.”
And that means everyone is all in on Colorado as well as the company’s overall mission, Custer says.
“It’s much bigger than a job,” Custer says. “Part of the dream as an entrepreneur is to create jobs and help people in your community. You know you’ve really made it when people are asking for their W-2 so they can buy cars or get a house. That’s what’s happening here. I’ve had three employees in the past nine months purchase homes in Colorado. It’s amazing to think Tyler and I created that opportunity.”
Top: Vortic Watch Co. recently received a $250,000 grant from the state of Colorado to continue its efforts to make its unique wristwatches and invest in its advanced-manufacturing efforts (photos courtesy of Vortic).@jckmagazine
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